Lisa Fischman Appointed Ruth G. Shapiro '37 Director of
Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College

Dec. 14, 2009

CONTACT: Nina J. Berger, 781-283-2034,
Arlie Corday, media office,; 781-283-3321

“College museums possess unusual potential for risk taking, for surprise and transformation, and thereby not only play a vital role in the education of their local constituencies but in the cultural life of the nation.”
- Lisa Fischman

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly announced today the appointment of Lisa Fischman as the Ruth G. Shapiro ' 37 director of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center.

Fischman, at right, who will take up her appointment on Feb. 1, has served as chief curator of the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson and gallery director at the Atlanta College of Art. Trained as an Americanist, Fischman has focused on investigating the relationships among the fine arts, material culture, design and popular culture, and locates her interest “among creative spheres often presumed not to intersect.”

President Bottomly expressed her enthusiasm about the appointment. “I am excited to have Lisa Fischman take the Davis Museum into a dynamic new era,” Bottomly said. “She is an inspiring, energetic and collaborative leader, and her appointment reinforces Wellesley’s commitment to excellence in the arts – in fact, when we put administrative hiring on hold during the budget crisis last year, this was the one search we allowed to go forward. As we move into the next decade, Dr. Fischman will shape the museum’s goals and priorities as well as play a key role in enhancing the vibrancy and creativity of Wellesley’s intellectual community.”

Bottomly emphasized the importance of the arts in history and society. “It is not an accident that the arts outlive the civilizations that produce them,” she said. “Art lives and informs forever. It is simultaneously intellectual and emotional, and there is no more powerful way to teach critical thinking, to inspire students, and to make knowledge personal, patterned and permanent.”

Karal Ann Marling, a well-known specialist in American culture and a longtime professor of art history and American studies at the University of Minnesota, called Fischman “smart, funny, determined and a great writer! Just what a scholar of art ought to be.”

Fischman said she is inspired by Wellesley’s commitment to the arts since its earliest days. “It is this tradition, the strength of the community's support and the quality of the Davis itself that I find so very appealing and so promising for the future,” she said. “I am tremendously enthusiastic about my appointment at the Davis — a museum that has long distinguished itself as an intellectual and aesthetic hub at the center of campus life — and I hope to bring a fresh perspective to this venerable institution.”


Lisa Fischman was chief curator at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson from 2005 to 2009, having previously been gallery director at the Atlanta College of Art (2000-2005). She was formerly associate curator of contemporary art/education at the UB Art Gallery-SUNY Buffalo, where she taught in the departments of art, art history and media study (1997-2000); prior to that, she worked for the departments of new media and education at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Fischman completed her undergraduate education in art history at the University of Chicago. She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in art history and American studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, specializing in relationships among the American fine arts, visual and popular culture and material culture, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary concerns. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled “Coonskin Fever: Frontier Adventures in Postwar American Culture.”

Fischman has curated and organized scores of exhibitions, working both with historical collections and with living artists of national and international repute. Her career has included considerable grant support, numerous commissions, and many publications – among them, the catalog "Jenny Schmid: The Vistas of Gender Utopia," and an essay on artist Laylah Ali in the award-winning catalog "Fault Lines: Contemporary Art and Shifting Landscapes," published to accompany the exhibition of African art curated by Gilane Tawadros for the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).

Over the past decade, she has worked with a wide range of distinguished artists and designers, including El Anatsui, Dieter Appelt, Shigeo Fukuda, Mélik Ohanian, the Buy-sellf Collective, Iona Rozeal Brown, Matts Leiderstam, Patricia Blanchet, Tony Gray, John Bankston, Tony Matelli, Laylah Ali, Enrique Chagoya, Edgar Heap of Birds, and Whang Inkie, among others.

Fischman serves on the Governance Committee of the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) and has acted as a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program at the University of Chicago, the Jerome Foundation and the McKnight Foundation.


One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine arts museums in the United States, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center is a vital force in the intellectual, pedagogical and social life of Wellesley College. It seeks to create an environment that cultivates critical thinking, inspires new ideas and fosters involvement with the arts both within the College and the larger community.


Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.

Wellesley has been collecting and exhibiting visual art since 1889 — making the College one of the first liberal arts institutions to establish a teaching collection. The Wellesley arts curriculum and its highly acclaimed Davis Museum and Cultural Center are integral and irreplaceable components of the College’s liberal arts education. Wellesley also offers many outstanding exhibits, performances and lectures that are free of charge and open to the public.